Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski speaks to the media during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting in Brussels, 03 April 2024. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET


Polish foreign minister says NATO can outlast Russia in Ukraine war


Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski, speaking after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, had a clear message for Russia: “As the North Atlantic Alliance, we are 20 times richer than Russia and can afford a drawn-out conflict if necessary.”

At a press conference after the summit on April 4, he also revealed alliance members had decided to establish a NATO mission in Ukraine but insisted that did not mean NATO was entering the war. The mission would be used for the “co-ordination, planning and training capabilities to support Ukraine more effectively”, Sikorski said.

The decision stopped short of any declaration regarding sending troops to Ukraine but means the alliance will have a presence that could in future facilitate such deployment.

Russia was quick to respond, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov saying Moscow would be “monitoring NATO’s mission in Ukraine very closely”. Russia has in the past stated that any engagement of NATO troops in Ukraine would mean war between Russia and the alliance.

Sikorski insisted NATO was planning several years ahead and warned Russian not to underestimate the its determination to see Ukraine able to defend itself

The ministers also discussed a proposal establishing a special five-year, $100 billion aid fund for Ukraine, intended to signal NATO’s readiness to support Ukraine over the long term and demonstrate that Russia cannot win its war with the country in a matter of months or even a few years.

Sikorski noted that the fund was a significant amount of money and that members’ contributions to it, proportional to their GDPs, was worth considering. While he acknowledged not all allies may agree initially, Sikorski said he regarded the initiative as valuable and he believed consensus could be reached through negotiations.

The decision comes in the aftermath of remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron who, at recent a summit on aid for Ukraine, said individual NATO member states may decide to send troops to Ukraine on the basis of bilateral agreements with Ukraine. He later said that should Russian forces get close to capturing Kyhiv or Odessa he was ready to send French troops to Ukraine.

While both Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk have said Poland has no plans for its troops to engage in Ukraine, Sikorski has said the use of NATO forces in Ukraine could not be ruled out at some point in the future.

The prospect of Polish troop deployment in Ukraine is supported by only around 10 per cent of voters, according to opinion polls.

Polish support for Ukraine has become more nuanced of late with disputes over Ukrainian grain flooding the Polish market and complaints about over-generous benefits provision for Ukrainians who have come to Poland largely the cause.